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What Is Nintendo Doing To Attract Indie Developers?

Posted by ugadawg239, 08 July 2013 · 817 views

Indie developers have become a major part of the video games industry since the start of this generation. Their games drive much of the innovation in the industry. Platforms like XBLA, PSN, Steam, and iOS have provided a way for indies to develop games that offer vastly different experiences than what is typically seen in big budget games. Nintendo also provided a way for indie developers to sell their games through both DSiWare and WiiWare. Nintendo did not do very much to help these developers by having them jump through hoops to get their games on either of the platforms. Nintendo also had a terrible online store that was incredibly frustrating for consumers to navigate. Many developers did not see it as worth their time to develop games for such a half assed service but instead chose the competition. At the time, Nintendo had become incredibly complacent and apparently did not see much worth in the indie scene. The company has done a much better job this time around with the 3DS and Wii U but is it enough.

Until recently, Nintendo has had needlessly unfriendly business practices towards their WiiWare and DSiWare developers. If a developer released a game under their service and did not meet a specific sales target, the developer would receive no money at all for their efforts. Some have claimed the number to be at around 6,000 units sold. How are you going to provide a service for developers that don't have a lot of capital and then have the nerve to not pay them if they don't reach some arbitrary sales number? The idea was to stop shovel ware from flooding the service, but I am fairly certain that shovel ware is the majority of the two services. Another rediculous requirement was that developers had to have an office to develop games for the service. Development studios with small teams and little capital didn't want to waste money on an office overhead when they were literally trying to feed their families. They could easily do their work at home or even in remote locations. Such idiotic requirements really hurt both services and inevitably turned them into a wasteland of mostly terrible games.

Nintendo has seems to have learned their lesson from WiiWare and DSiWare. For instance, the requirement of having to have an office is gone. They are handing out free development kits to developers for both the 3DS and Wii U. The price of a Wii U development kit is thought to be approximately 5,000 dollars. Developers that would have only considered developing for the PC are now also considering Nintendo systems as a viable platform to release their games on. Nintendo is also targeting iOS developers by making it very easy to port their games to the Wii U and 3DS. Companies have total control over the pricing of their product. Nintendo also works with developers to help them appropriately price, QA, and market their game. The eShop is not a total mess, in fact it's a really great start for a company that hasn't been able to figure out the internet to date.

Nintendo's effort isn't perfect but it is a really great start for a company that had grown complacent over the years and didn't feel the need to embrace the internet. It surprises me that they are actually offering the option to download games instead of purchase a cartridge. One of Nintendo's historic disadvantages has been the lack of third party support. This could potentially be alleviated somewhat by being a console that embraces smaller indie titles and not just the big budget blockbusters. I personally think that Nintendo has done a great job changing their philosophy towards other developers and I hope it continues. Being an indie friendly company goes a long way to creating a lot of good will in the industry.

I'm going to disagree. This new wave of indie dev support being important is at best idealistic thinking. It sounds nice. Give a hand to the indie guys who are going to someday make the AAA game that millions want to play, and watch them roll in the dough. You know, like Jonathan Blow, Team Meat. Right? Wrong.


Much like other arts, indie doesn't always mean good, desirable, or worth helping. I think this notion of supporting indie devs on a console is entirely overblown. We as consumers might feel warm and fuzzy because our console of choice says they support indie devs, but at the end of the day, what are we all circling on our calendars? The release of AAA games.


Don't get me wrong, some of them make really good games. I have some close personal friends who are indie devs, and they put passion, blood, sweat, and tears into their work. But to have such a commercially meaningless community to have this imaginary bargaining power as each manufacturer has to tell us, "the other guy HATES indie, but we embrace it!" is fanciful. They are nearly irrelevant from a business perspective, and about as many kids who want to play in the NBA as indie devs who want to make it big time occur.


There are lots of indie games I enjoy, but a console manufacturer's willingness or refusal to provide publishing tools and delivery methods truly couldn't be a feature I could care less about (although obviously I have an opinion on, thus the rant) :P